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Max Cavitch

Associate Professor of English

Fisher-Bennett Hall 341

Office Hours

fall 2024

office hours by appointment

Max Cavitch joined Penn's faculty in 1999, after receiving his B.A. from Yale and his Ph.D. from Rutgers. He teaches courses on many forms and phases of American and Anglophone literature of the modern period. His teaching and research interests also include Animal Studies, Cinema and New Media Studies, Comparative Literature, Poetry and Poetics, Gender and Sexuality studies, and Psychoanalytic Studies. He is the author of American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman (2007), co-translator (with Noura Wedell and Paul Grant) of Jean Louis Schefer's L'homme ordinaire du cinéma [The Ordinary Man of Cinema] (MIT Press, 2016), and author of dozens of essays, articles, poems, and translations in journals including American Literary HistoryAmerican LiteratureContemporary PsychoanalysisEarly American LiteratureGrand, Modern Language Quarterly, Oxford Literary Review, Philosophical Salon, Politics/Letters, PMLA, Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, Senses of Cinema, Screen, and Victorian Poetry. He is the founding editor of the blog, Psyche on Campus, which has an international readership of over 17,000 teachers, clinicians, and students and was the winner of the 2022 Award for Excellence in Journalism from the American Psychoanalytic Association. He is also the editor  of Walt Whitman's Specimen Days (Oxford University Press, 2023) and co-editor (with Brian Connolly) of Situation Critical! Critique, Theory, and Early American Studies (Duke University Press, 2024). Two new books are forthcoming in 2025: Psychoanalysis and the University: Resistance and Renewal from Freud to the Present (Routledge) and Ashes: A History of Thought and Substance (Punctum), and he is currently finishing a new scholarly monograph called Passing Resemblances: World Autobiography from Nehemiah to Knausgaard (under contract with Columbia University Press). He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the Emily Harvey Foundation, the Science History Institute, the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, the Penn Humanities Forum, Cornell's Society for the Humanities, the Center for Mark Twain Studies, and the Austen Riggs Center. He is Co-director of Penn's Psychoanalytic Studies program, a founding member of the Historical Poetics group, a member of the Advisory and Council of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, a consortium member of the Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, a member of the collaboration committee of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and Penn's Department of Psychiatry, and an affiliated faculty member of the programs in Cinema and Media StudiesComparative Literature, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies.


Articles and Book Chapters

"Mark Twain, the Talking Cure, and Literary Form" American Literary History (2023)
"Everybody's Autotheory" Modern Language Quarterly (2022)
"In the Interest of History" History of the Present (2022)
"Paul Celan and Ukraine" Politics/Letters (2022)
"Safaa Fathy and Jacques Derrida, 'Contre-jour'" Introduction and translator. PMLA (2016)
"Clericus and the Lunatick" Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America (2013)
"Irregulars" Contemporary Psychoanalysis (2013)
"Genre" The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012)
"Lament" The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012)
"Slavery and Its Metrics" The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Poetry (2011)
"American Constitutional Elegy" The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy (2010)
"Dickinson and the Exception" A Companion to Emily Dickinson (2008)
"Stephen Crane’s Refrain" ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance (2008)
"Introduction" The Pioneers (2007)
"Emma Lazarus and the Golem of Liberty" American Literary History (2006)
"Death’s Histories" Early American Literature (2004)

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Don James McLaughlin "Infectious Affect: The Phobic Imagination in American Literature"
Ana Schwartz "Feeling Past Politics: Affection, Settlement, and the Disciplines of Civil Society in Early Anglo America, 1620-1682"


Greta LaFleur "American Insides: Popular Narrative and the Historiography of Sexuality, 1674-1815"
Joshua Ratner ""American Paratexts: Experimentation and Anxiety in the Early United States""


Mark J. Miller "Voicing Abjection: Evangelic Discourse, Suffering and Speech in Early American Literature"

Courses Taught

fall 2024

spring 2024

ENGL 0038.401 Study of a Genre: World Autobiography canceled  

spring 2023

ENGL 0038.401 World Autobiography  

fall 2022

ENGL 2800.401 The Person in the Poem  

spring 2022

fall 2021

ENGL 573.401 Lives of the Death Drive  

spring 2020

ENGL 090.401 Queer Autobiography  
ENGL 286.301 American Autobiography  

fall 2019

ENGL 016.303 21st-Century Autobiography  

spring 2019

ENGL 090.401 Queer Autobiography  
ENGL 286.301 American Autobiography  

fall 2018

ENGL 102.401 Intro to Psychoanalysis  
ENGL 286.401 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2017

fall 2016

fall 2015

ENGL 101.003 Poe and Popular Culture  

summer 2015

spring 2015

fall 2014

spring 2014

fall 2013

ENGL 016.303 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2012

ENGL 100.401 Dangerous Writers  

fall 2011

spring 2011

ENGL 781.301 Histories of Forgetting  

fall 2010

spring 2010

fall 2009

ENGL 016.302 Emily Dickinson at Large  

spring 2009

ENGL 598.301 Futures of American Poetry  

fall 2008

ENGL 286.402 Americans in Paris  

summer 2007

spring 2007

ENGL 286.401 Americans in Paris  

spring 2006

ENGL 386.301 Emily Dickinson at Large  

fall 2005

ENGL 299.309 Independent Study  
ENGL 781.301 Histories of Forgetting  

spring 2005

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction and Memory  

fall 2004

spring 2004

ENGL 311.301 The Honors Program  

spring 2003

ENGL 282.301 American Poetry  
ENGL 311.301 The Honors Program  

fall 2002

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

spring 2002

fall 2001

ENGL 283.401 American Women Writers  

spring 2001

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

fall 2000

spring 2000

ENGL 089.001 American Fiction  

fall 1999